With critics saying many Hollywood movies look like videogames, French game-maker Quantic dream this week bucks the trend with "Heavy Rain", an interactive adventure that plays like a classic film noir thriller.
"Today videogames often seem like clunky toys. Our aim with "Heavy Rain" was to create a story for adults. There is a scenario with realistic characters and strong emotions like love or grief," said David Cage, who created the game and wrote its voluminous script.
AdvertisementThe game by the Paris studio takes place in a US town, telling the story of a hunt for a serial killer who preys on young boys, leaving his victims drowned with an orchid on their chest and an origami object in their hand.
But the game in fact tells multiple stories, as the final outcome depends on choices made by the player as the action progresses.
Cage said the script was 20 times longer than the standard Hollywood thriller requiring a script of about 120 pages.
Heavy Rain's rhythm is less frenetic than many games on the market and deliberately tackles difficult and complex themes, such as the loss of a loved one, which are generally ignored by the mainstream gaming industry.
"The scenario essentially serves to keep the narrative moving forward. But the most important thing is not just to find the killer but also to answer this question: How far are you prepared to go for love," said Cage.
Players can tackle this existential conundrum in a number of ways.
"The end of the game will also be the end of your particular story. It could be happy or sad but the most important thing is that the player understands why his or her actions have led to this outcome," said the executive producer Guillaume de Fondaumiere.
"We wanted to avoid the linear nature of a film by allowing each player to create their own unique experience. The player is actor, director and screenwriter in his or her story," he added.
Gamers can choose to be one of four distinct characters when they play: Ethan Mars, an architect whose life is thrown into turmoil after one of his sons is killed in a car crash, Norman Jayden, a high-tech FBI investigator, neurotic journalist Madison Paige, and Scott Shelby, a gruff private eye.
Technically, the controls needed to advance in "Heavy Rain" are largely intuitive, allowing players to immerse themselves in the narrative.
The game is only available on Playstation 3 and is releasing in the United States on Tuesday, and across Europe on Wednesday.